Sometimes making that initial call to ask for help is the hardest one to make but it could be the most important if you’re struggling to conceive. Many things can get in the way of reaching out and getting assistance or beginning fertility treatment—sometimes these obstacles are within a relationship or other times they’re more personal and private. At times, even the myths associated with infertility and treatment can become obstacles, too. For example, many have heard the advice from well-intentioned (but ill informed) friends and family to “just relax and it will happen” while there is no clinical evidence to support this notion.
Infertility is a condition of absence—that is the lack of a wished-for baby—and despite it being recognized as a disease by every health organization, some find it hard to accept it as such and seek help.
Here are some of the common barriers that may be keeping you from realizing your dream of having a baby, and helpful strategies to overcome:
“If we just keep trying on our own, maybe it will happen, eventually.”
Infertility is described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.” For women over 35, it is recommended to seek medical consultation after 6 months (or sooner if there are other health-related issues) as age plays a major factor in fertility. Thus, if you delay getting appropriate medical help, this can become a factor in prognosis and treatment.
“I’m afraid it won’t work.”
As a friend once wisely stated, “fighting the fear is always harder than fighting the fight!” Fear is paralyzing while taking action is liberating, and becoming well informed helps to mobilize you. Infertility is a treatable disease and Shady Grove Fertility has a proven record with many options to help you have a baby.
At SGF, we take a stepped-approach to fertility treatment often starting with more basic fertility treatment such as ovulation induction (OI) or superovulation, coupled with intrauterine insemination (IUI). In fact, approximately 25 percent of patients achieve a pregnancy through simpler treatment options. With over 40,000 babies born through fertility treatment at SGF, our highly specialized staff provides our patients with the best possible care and greatest chances of conception.
“My spouse and I don’t seem to be on the same page about the lengths to which we should go to have a baby.”
It is not unusual for couples to have different ideas about the type of fertility treatment and how far each is willing to go in treatment. It can be helpful to put a specific time aside on a regular basis to talk about what your feelings are regarding treatment, rather than having a running dialogue. A good strategy is to set aside 20 minutes every day, set a timer, and talk about your infertility, with each getting 10 minutes to express your feelings. Also, try active listening with each other, reflecting back what you hear your partner saying and feeling before stating your response. If you don’t seem to be making progress, consider reaching out to our psychological support staff for help. In fact, when couples are at an impasse regarding treatment is often the time we hear from people that counseling can be a very effective in working things through.
“I’ve lost my sense of boundaries. Being infertile has become who I am and I’m ashamed of this.”
Infertility affects approximately one out of eight couples trying to conceive, so it is far more common than many people realize. For many it is a silent struggle with the invisible loss of the wished-for baby and a sense of defectiveness in not being able to get pregnant. And all these feelings can lead to a sense of shame that is hard to bear. However, understanding the normalcy of your feelings and being able to talk about it with others who truly understand is the best way to unshackle the shame of infertility. This is one of the many areas where our support groups are so helpful to our patients as they go through fertility treatment.
“I’m not cut out for fertility treatment. I don’t have the mental stamina.”
We know fertility treatment can be stressful and SGF understands this better than most. Our entire staff works to provide the best medical and emotional care, integrating services to treat the whole person. From our beginning over 25 years ago, SGF has set the standard for providing psychological support to our patients. We have monthly support groups on a variety of topics that have been a life-line to our patients. We also have highly trained counselors who specialize in fertility counseling to work with individuals and couples, providing effective strategies for coping. It is important to know you are not alone and there are great support resources available.
For more information about SGF’s psychological support services, overcoming barriers to seeking fertility treatment, or to schedule an appointment, please contact our New Patient Center at 1-877-971-7755.
About the Author:
Sharon Covington, MSW, LCSW-C, Director of Psychological Support Services at Shady Grove Fertility is a licensed clinical social worker in Maryland and a Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work with over 40 years of experience as a psychotherapist. An internationally recognized leader on the psychological aspects of reproductive health, Mrs. Covington is an Assistant Clinical Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Associate Investigator in the Intramural Research Program on Reproductive and Adult Endocrinology at the National Institutes of Health. She recently edited and authored Fertility Counseling: Clinical guide and Case Studies, and is the co-author and editor of the classic text Infertility Counseling: A Comprehensive Handbook for Clinicians.